Senator John Hoeven last week spoke with U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to press the case for locating the KC-46A tanker mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Hoeven told Secretary Donley that the North Dakota Air National Guard is already working in cooperation with Grand Forks and could support the mission through an associated relationship. He said with a new runway, hangers and UND Aerospace, Grand Forks is a great location with outstanding facilities for the new mission.
"With years of experience as a tanker base and strong resources to go with it, Grand Forks is the right place for the new KC-46A mission," Hoeven said. "With the North Dakota Air National Guard ready, willing and able to support the UAS Predator, tanker missions and C-27J, North Dakota should be a prime candidate."
At the same time, Hoeven said the Air Force should allow Fargo to continue to fly its C-21 bridge mission until the C-27J arrives. The C-27J is a smaller, more flexible cargo aircraft used to transport materials in support of combat operations. It is able to operate in remote and rough environments and can take off and land from unprepared surfaces and short airstrips.
The senator supported funding of the C-27J program, including the procurement of aircraft assigned to Fargo, in the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense appropriations bill. He also worked with the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to include language in its draft of the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization bill that ensures the continued use of the C-27J fleet by the U.S. Air Force through 2013. There is strong sentiment in the Senate to retain this language when the bill is considered on the Senate floor.
Hoeven said the aircraft is already authorized and paid for, brand new and well-suited for both domestic and foreign operations. They're also less expensive to operate than the larger C-130. This mission is good for Fargo, good for the Air Force and good for our country."
Hoeven, who serves as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is also working to secure funding for the C-27J program in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.